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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12217

Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (18:40): I rise tonight to speak on the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Fair Protection for Firefighters) Bill 2011, a bill the coalition will not be opposing. The reasons for the introduction of this bill have been outlined by previous speakers. In particular, it comes about because of the higher incidence of diseases which occur in our firefighters and they are: primary site brain cancer, primary site bladder cancer, primary site kidney cancer, primary non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, primary leukaemia, primary site breast cancer, primary site testicular cancer and some other forms of cancer, which are also included in this table.

From overseas studies and from studies here in Australia it is shown that our firefighters are incurring these types of cancers at a higher rate than the general populous. Given the fact of their general health and the tests they undertake to qualify as firefighters, it seems there is a link between the job they are undertaking and the diseases which sadly they are incurring.

The coalition is not opposing this bill but its support has come with—it is no secret—considerable discussion because it reverses the onus of proof. This is something which is quite unique and something which we on this side have had some very serious discussions about because reversing the onus of proof could lead to the start of a process for other sectors to go down this path. It was only sensible and rational and showed the ability of us on the coalition side to discuss these matters in full and to look at all the consequences. That is what indeed happened and in the end the coalition has decided not to oppose this bill.

I have been a volunteer firefighter and have seen first-hand what firefighters have to undertake when attending road accidents where there are chemical tankers which have overturned. I must confess I have not seen or had to attend fires where houses have been on fire but I have fought fires which have threatened houses. I take this opportunity to take my hat off to all those firefighters both urban and rural who put their lives and, in some cases—as the evidence from Canada and here indicates—their health at risk for the job that they do. It is a very difficult profession which requires extraordinary bravery. I think all of us in this place take our hats off to the courage of the men and women who undertake it. It is in large part for their heroics and bravery that the coalition had decided that we will not oppose this bill.